A car isn’t a car without a radio. Having access to your tunes, podcasts, and the news turns a humdrum commute into da club, a classroom, or a news desk. We are educated by NPR’s fabulous “Throughline,” we bop to Dua Lipa, and we stay informed of the latest happenings with all our politics and news stations. Without it? Silence. And that isn’t good.
Repairing a broken car radio, especially in today’s modern automobiles, can seem Sisyphian, and in some cases, it is. You can, however, still do some work to keep your music with you. The editors at Car Bibles have put together this guide to do just that!
Car Radio Repair
For many motorists, car radio repair isn’t as simple as it once was. Old cars simply had an AM/FM radio that could be removed with a single screwdriver. Today’s radios and infotainment centers, however, often require the car’s entire dash to be removed, which involves clips, screws, zip-ties, and a whole lot of cursing the engineers who packaged everything so freaking tightly.
Here are a couple of repairs you can still do yourself in your garage.
- Stereo Repair
If you have a car without any infotainment screens, you can still remove the radio and make several repairs. You’ll first have to consult your owner’s manual for directions on how to remove your specific radio. Once you do, you can then determine what’s causing the issue. Here are a few common issues and what could be causing them.
- No Backlighting: A lack of backlighting could be caused by a faulty wire, loose wire, or burnt-out lighting element.
- Tape/CD Stuck: Cassette tapes and CDs can get stuck for a variety of reasons. Removing the radio will let you determine where the snag is and possibly how to fix it. Sometimes, a CD or tape getting stuck means the whole radio will need to be replaced.
- Faulty Reception: Faulty reception could be caused by a loose wire, a faulty circuit, or a bad connection with the car’s antenna. You can follow your car’s manual to determine where the antenna connects to the radio to determine the problem.
- Infotainment Repair
Unfortunately, most DIYers aren’t going to be able to repair an infotainment center. That’s purely a dealership job and it’s going to be costly if they have to get into the guts of it.
- Antenna Repair
Car antennas can become damaged due to weather or accidents. Repairing them can be as simple as replacing the whip-style antenna used in older cars to fixing an electrical connection within the “shark-fin” antennas of new cars.
- Replacing a Whip-Style Antenna: Simply unscrew the antenna from the base located at the front, rear, or on the A-pillar of your car. Inspect the connection for any dirt or debris, then install the new antenna.
- Replacing a Shark-Fin Antenna: Shark-fin antennas are glued onto the car’s exterior paneling. You’ll need to use a heat gun or hairdryer to heat the glue to remove the antenna. While the antenna is removed, you can inspect the connections to see if any further repairs need to be made.
Car Radio Basics
As with everything, learning the language is important to understanding the topic. Here are a few definitions you should know when considering repairing your car radio.
Antennas, which intercept radio, navigation, and satellite signals, come in a few shapes and sizes. Older cars feature a whip-like antenna at the front or rear of the car, while newer cars will feature a “shark-fin” antenna atop the roof or an antenna that’s hidden beneath the roof’s structure for a perfectly smooth appearance.
- Head Unit
A head unit is your radio’s face. It features all the controls such as volume, tuning, CD, and favorites. A head unit is more common in older cars that don’t feature any screens.
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Infotainment is a relatively new term that came about when manufacturers began integrating screens into car dashboards. Infotainment units often feature navigation and radio control, along with some that also have HVAC, car performance settings, lighting, cameras, and other controls. Infotainment screens vary in shapes and sizes, as well as functionality.
Though navigation systems are a relatively new technology, they’ve come a long way in a few short years and now feature satellite views of wherever you are. Navigation uses satellites to determine your exact location and relay that information onto a street-view. It allows you to access directions around the world.
Car Radio FAQs
Q: How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Car Radio?
A: If you have an older car without infotainment and the inner workings of modern automobiles, repairing your radio will only cost you a few hundred dollars.
If you have a car with integrated screens, navigation, Bluetooth, XM, and all the other controls that automakers are putting into our dashboards, you’re looking at a few thousand dollars, depending on the severity of the issue.
Q: What Could Cause Your Car Radio to Stop Working?
A: Broken, damaged, or old parts, loose wires, and/or dirt and debris could all affect your car’s radio.
Q: How Do You Reset a Car’s Infotainment Screen?
A: There are two ways to reset your car’s infotainment screen: disconnecting the battery or pressing and holding the infotainment’s power button for three to five seconds. The method will vary depending on the car and manufacturer, so check your car’s manual for detailed instructions.
Q: Will Disconnecting Battery Reset a Car’s Computer?
A: It won’t completely reset your car’s computer, as things such as your odometer and safety systems won’t be affected. However, it could clear any issues your car’s infotainment is currently having.
Car Radio Tips & Tricks
There are always tips and tricks to learn, and Car Bible’s editors want to give you all of theirs. Here are our tips and tricks for repairing your car radio.
- Have you tried turning it off and on again? A simple push of the power button could fix a few of the issues you may be facing. A step further would be to disconnect and then reconnect the battery.
- Check your antenna. A bad antenna could be causing several problems with your car’s radio.
- Check for loose connections.
- A radio’s fuse in the fuse box could be faulty. Check that and replace it if necessary.